13The Danger of Extremism

On 5 November 1605, a plot led by Robert Catesby – and including the explosives expert Guy Fawkes – succeeded in blowing up the English Parliament, killing scores of statesmen as well as King James I of England (VI of Scotland). Yet the atrocity failed in its central aim of instigating a Catholic insurrection against the Protestant crown. Instead, it sparked a backlash against Catholicism that destroyed England's nascent tolerance of private religious conviction.

The conspirators and anyone associated with them were butchered – as were many senior Catholics holding high office (having sworn an ‘oath of supremacy’). In every town, ‘recusants’ (as Catholics were known) were burnt out of their homes as a bloody pogrom ...

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